Eritrean Carer of Stabbed Baby Girl Summoned to Holot Detention Center

The asylum seeker, 36, cared for Kako Yamena after she was stabbed by an Israeli man in Tel Aviv, in 2014.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Kako Yamena with her mother Yordanes, in an Israeli hospital after Kako was stabbed in 2014.
Kako Yamena with her mother Yordanes, in an Israeli hospital after Kako was stabbed in 2014. Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The man who cared for an Eritrean baby girl stabbed in the head two years ago has been summoned to the Holot detention center in the Negev.

The Eritrean asylum seeker, identified as Fitawi, 36, is a relative of the injured infant, Kako Yamena.

He had been assisting the family since Kako was assaulted and seriously injured in Tel Aviv by an Israeli man in January 2014.

After Israel turned down the family’s request for asylum, the parents, Kako and her sister Ruthie left for a European country after they were granted asylum there last month. The country that accepted the family conditioned its offer on its name not being made public to avoid a clash with Israel.

Fitawi was present when Kako was stabbed, and he subsequently moved into the family home and helped support the family financially, assisted in Kako’s care and looked after Ruthie.

Three months ago, before the family left the country, Fitawi received a summons from the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to report to Holot. He appealed and was granted a hearing.

The residency permit he was given when he received the summons prohibits him from working, so he had to leave his job.

The Holot migrant detention facility, September 22, 2014.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The hearing was held Sunday at the immigration authority offices in Bnei Brak.

Fitawi requested that the summons be canceled because of his special circumstances. He told the authorities that since Kako’s family left Israel, he has been suffering psychologically and has had trouble sleeping.

Human rights activist Sigal Avivi has been assisting the family since the stabbing. She was present at the hearing and took notes of the interview with the immigration clerk. She noted that the clerk was impatient, showed no interest in Fitawi’s responses and interrupted him frequently and cast aspersions on the truth of his statements.

According to Avivi’s notes, when Fitawi began outlining his support for the Yamena family, the interviewer responded, “That’s dead, it’s irrelevant.”

When Fitawi said he was afraid of being alone, the clerk said, “Who protected you? Two little girls?” The clerk then added, “I have a great solution for you: You won’t be alone at Holot!”

The clerk also told Fitawi, “I agree with you that this is a hard case. The family is far away and you’re very worried about them. The story is shocking, but they’re not here.”

Fitawi presented letters from psychologists and social workers confirming the assistance he gave to the Yamenas, but the clerk was said to be not particularly interested in them.

When the interview was over, the clerk told Fitawi to wait. Two and a half hours later, he informed him that his request had been denied and he had to report to Holot in two weeks’ time.

The clerk wrote that Fitawi had seemingly claimed he was the Yamena family’s support when that family is not in Israel, “and so this is no longer relevant.”

The clerk also wrote that Fitawi “claimed that he was under pressure and not sleeping well for two months. But beyond the fact that it was raised here for the first time, this claim is unsupported by any documents, or at least the testimony of others.

“When he gets to Holot he will see a doctor, to whom he can present all his medical claims or problems, and he will get medical care there if needed. Holot is an open facility that cares for the needs of all the residents,” the clerk wrote in his decision.

Fitawi told Haaretz Monday that Kako and Ruthie Yemena “are like my own children. The girls were with me all day. Now it is very hard for me. They left Israel. There is a pain in my heart. It is good for them but hard for me I don’t know what to do, my whole heart is with the girls.”

Fitawi said he is in touch with the family but cannot get over their departure. “I cry all day long,” he added.

Fitawi lives in south Tel Aviv near other relatives and their children, which he said makes things a little easier for him to forget what happened: “My family understands me and what happened a bit. I can’t be alone. I don’t know what will happen in Holot,” he said.

After Kako’s stabbing in 2014, the state did nothing to help the Yemenas and made things difficult for them until their departure last month. The previous two interior ministers, Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom, refused to give Kako’s parents residency permits. As a result, the family was not entitled to National Insurance Institute benefits or financial help for Kako’s medical treatments. The treatments, costing thousands of shekels, were paid for by donations.

Kako’s father was also summoned to Holot after the 2014 stabbing, but that order was later rescinded.

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